Independent Drama Society’s “Glengarry Glenn Ross”

by Bryce Lambert on January 21, 2011

Sometimes it feels like there’s a lack of classics being performed in Boston. That new, sometimes weak or trendy plays, push aside the stuff that people are familiar with; the hardened, proven texts always worthy of an umpteenth production. has been making headway with contemporary classics, about five months ago with Proof and now with Mamet’s Glengarry Glenn Ross (through the 22nd at the BCA, ).

Perhaps Mamet isn’t the best example, since Boston has something of a history with Oleanna and we recently saw a New Rep production of Speed-the-Plow as well as a mini Mamet festival at the ART, featuring Romance, a newer work of borderline self-parody. (EDIT: Oops. Forgot there was a “Boston Marriage” and a “Glengarry” at the New Rep in September.) But, of all these, Glengarry would be the only one to make it into an anthology. As every theater everywhere struggles to reach new audiences, they do themselves a service by putting on canonical theater 101 plays. Many try to make their way through the Criterion Collection or the AFI or Modern Library top 100 lists, but a similar route in getting a primer theater is difficult if the plays just aren’t there to see. If you’ve seen three Glengarrys you can probably skip this one, if not, then you should head over to the BCA for another solid shoestring show by the this young upstart company.

Jeremy Browne (as Williamson) and Phil Thompson (as Levene) (Bethany Krevat)

Phil Thompson (as Shelley Levene) gives a particularly noteworthy performance, carrying well the confident desperation of his character, who’s ego swings solely in the direction of his commission checks. Thompson brings just enough grittiness to the down and out salesman’s smooth, persistent bargaining (or thinly disguised begging) with his boss for leads in the play’s great first scene. We pity the guy who can’t come up with fifty bucks and, in the second act, even with the big sale we’re to believe he’s made, Thompson preserves a piece of that pity–even these men’s successes feel gloomy.

Michael Pevzers’ quirks and ticks seemed forced as his Aaronow listened to his coworker try to recruit him to steal Glengarry’s MacGuffin, some prized sales leads. But he brings an idiosyncrasy of character the production otherwise would have lacked. It works better in the second act, where this awkwardness goes hand in hand with his character’s nervousness–an emotion that has to be drummed in order to sustain a sense of suspicion that spreads out across the entire act and to ensure Mamet’s twist ending really has its cathartic twist.

Michael Fisher (as Roma) comes off as genuinely slick, issuing Roma’s indirect and philosophical sales pitch so genuinely that I was ready to pull out my checkbook. What’s so great about Glengarry is that its more important characters spend most of the play acting themselves, hustling a mark, their naive, but sharp boss Williamson (Jeremy Browne), or each other. The closer you look, the harder it is to distinguish an actor’s performance from that of his character.

IDS had to pinch pennies on the Chinese restaurant set for the first act, but the torn-up office of the second was admirably put together (or perhaps taken apart) by designer Sean A. Cote. The musical cues could have been improved on. A few bars from “White Rabbit” just feels like the choice of an iPod shuffle rather than a creative team, but that doesn’t change the fact that director Brett Marks has assembled a sturdy production with, most importantly, a firm understanding of Mamet’s language and sense of tragedy.

‘s Glengarry Glen Ross runs through January 22nd at the Plaza Black Box Theatre at the BCA (539 Tremont St). Tickets: $23 in advance, $28 day of show, $18 student/senior, available at .

Michael Fisher (as Roma), Jeremy Browne (as Williamson), and Adam Lauver (as Baylen) (Bethany Krevat)

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